Red Cedar, Cedar-wood (Virginia Cedar)

EO Profile • Name of Oil:  Cedar-wood (Virginia Cedar)

by Jeanne Rose 6-30-16

A Profile of Juniper Cedar ~ Confused with a true Cedar, these two plants are physically and chemically unalike. Know them correctly.

Juniper Cedar-EO

Latin Binomial/Botanical Family:   Juniperus virginiana, Family Cupressaceae

This EO is often confused with the true Cedar of the genus Cedrus or confused with Thuja plicata, the Pacific red-cedar . These are physically and chemically unlike and should be known by their correct names, both common and Latin binomials. Red-Cedar or Virginia Cedar contains mainly cedrene while true Cedar contains cedrol and atlantone.

Countries of Origin of Juniperus virginiana: Northeastern North America. Southwest Maine, west to Northern New York, Southern Quebec, Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, to Southwest North Dakota, south to West Kansas, Oklahoma to Central Texas, and east to Georgia, the most widespread and common juniper in the eastern US. [USDA data].  Juniperus virginiana or Eastern Red-Cedar or Cedar-wood (note the dash that keeps it separate from true Cedars) is an indigenous species native to the eastern North America. Lakota call it Chansha, “redwood” or Hante’. It belongs to the Cupressaceae family and not the Pinaceae family.

General description of plant, habitat & growth: Tree with some needle-like leaves and some with scale-like ones at maturity; females with cones with 3-8 fleshy coalescing scales becoming berry-like. A timber tree or a cultivated ornamental with flavoring and medicinal uses.

Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods & yield:  The wood chips and sawdust are steam distilled.  Yield: 1.06 to 3.44% based on fresh material weight. [American Journal of  Environmental Science 1 (2): 133-138, 2005]

organoleptic characteristics, J. virginiana

Chemical Components:            Oil from the leaves contains borneol, cadinene, d-limonene, and a-pinene (Guenther, 1948-1952). Hager’s Handbuch adds sabinene, g-terpinene, elemoacetate, 3-carene, myrcene, 4-terpineol, citronellol, elemol, eudesmol, estragole, safrole, methyl eugenol, elemicine, traces of thujene, cymene, and linalool (List and Horhammer, 1969–1979). The Cedarwood oil contains ca 80% cedrene, some cedrol and pseudocedrol, and cedrenol. Juniperus virginiana contains the poisonous antitumor compound called podophyllotoxin (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, 1977). —

Juniper cedar oil copyJuniperus virginiana ~ Red Cedar Oil from Eden Botanicals

Historical Uses:   Important local medicine, wood is used for insect-proof chests and Cedar-balls placed among clothes, oil used for scenting soap and in aromatherapy.

Interesting Facts:            “Repellant to insects. Native Americans use American-cedar as medicine and burn it for purification”. Also called the pencil-cedar. The wood is used in furniture as it is rot resistant and the essential oil distilled from the wood chips, twigs and leaves. The pollen is an allergen.

Properties EO (by IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation or AP=application):  Inhalation: Tonic to the respiratory system.  Application:  Arterial regenerative, lymphatic tonic, antiseptic, fungicide, tonic, anti-seborrheic, and regenerative.

          Physical Uses & How used (IG or AP) EO: Ingestion: Urinary infections. Application: It is used for arteriosclerosis, the retention of fluid in the tissue (edema), cellulite reduction, and in skin care for reducing oily secretions.  It is also used for  cleansing, as a general tonic, acne, rheumatism, cystitis, and scalp disorder. Cedarwood is used by application and inhalation for chest infections and asthma. The EO is used as an astringent compress or as an application in skin care or for varicosities of one sort and another.

          Emotional/Energetic Uses (AP or IN):
Inhalation:  Considered to be calming. However, in my experience the odor is so evocative of the traditional cedar chest in which are contained old memories that for me it seems more conducive to reflection. Energetically this EO is often used to ‘clear’ negative energy.

 DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION: Diffuse to clear the air of a musty room or house. Can be blended with citrus and other oils.

BLENDING: This oil can be used in any woodsy scent where a spicy note is desired. Try it with Benzoin, cypress, Frankincense, Galbanum, Juniper berry, Oakmoss, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, vetiver and the like. It has a spicy fixative effect in blends when used in perfumery.

HYDROSOL: The hydrosol of Virginia cedar will help rid your home of ants, even fire ants. Just spray on the walls and around the baseboards or wherever you see ant trails.

Juniper cedar hydrosol copyJuniperus virginiana hydrosol


2 ounces Labdanum absolute
2 ounce Choya Loban (cedarwood based)
1/4th ounce Birch Tar Essential oil
1 ounce Virgina cedar-wood
1/2 ounce Tonka Bean Absolute

Mix these oils together. Succuss vigorously. And let them age for a few weeks. Then dilute or not as you wish. To scent leather goods, place a few drops of the scent on a cotton ball and envelop the ball in a piece of fabric. Then put this in an airtight container with the leather or gloves you wish to scent. Leave for another few weeks and finally, you will have leather or gloves that will have the odor of “Russian Leather”. Umm! Very nice.


Key Use: The EO is used as an astringent compress or application in skin care or for varicosities of one sort and another.

Safety Precautions: Be certain of what you are using. Both oils, called Cedar oil are used in repelling vermin in the storage of valuables, but the oil should not directly touch the garments.  Cedrus atlantica is a true cedar, whereas Juniperus virginiana contains mostly Cederene.  Even though they have the same common name, and although they both repel vermin, they are not used identically otherwise.  So, be absolutely certain of which oil you are using.

Do not use on pregnant women. May be sensitizing.

SCIENTIFIC DATA: J Med Food. 2013 Jan;16(1):48-55. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2472. Topical wound-healing effects and phytochemical composition of heartwood essential oils of Juniperus virginiana L., Juniperus occidentalis Hook., and Juniperus ashei J. Buchholz. — Tumen I1, Süntar I, Eller FJ, Keleş H, Akkol EK.


Ethnobotanical surveys indicated that in the traditional medicines worldwide, several Juniperus species are utilized as anthelmintic*, diuretic, stimulant, antiseptic, carminative, stomachic, antirheumatic, antifungal, and for wound healing. In the present study, essential oils obtained from heartwood samples of Juniperus virginiana L., Juniperus occidentalis Hook. and Juniperus ashei J. Buchholz were evaluated for wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities by using in vivo experimental methods. The essential oils were obtained by the supercritical carbon dioxide extraction method. Linear incision and circular excision wound models were performed for the wound-healing activity assessment. The tissues were also evaluated for the hydroxyproline content as well as histopathologically. To evaluate the anti-inflammatory activity of the essential oils, the test used was an acetic acid-induced increase in capillary permeability. The essential oil of J. occidentalis showed the highest activity on the in vivo biological activity models. Additionally, the oil of J. virginiana was found highly effective in the anti-inflammatory activity method. The experimental data demonstrated that essential oil of J. occidentalis displayed significant wound-healing and anti-inflammatory activities.

*Anthelmintic or antihelminthics are a group of antiparasitic drugs that expel parasitic worms and other internal parasites from the body by either stunning or killing them and without causing significant damage to the host.


DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©


Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne.  375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.  Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne.  The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations.  San Francisco, California:
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992.




5 thoughts on “Red Cedar, Cedar-wood (Virginia Cedar)

  1. I am just beginning to dig into these profiles and I am amazed by the very first one. I am torn between wanting to go experiment with Cedar (Auto correct will not allow me to use the scientific name without changing it to something incomprehensible. Grrrrr!) And wanting to keep reading. Thank you.

  2. Pingback: JUNIPER BERRY EO/HYDROSOL | Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy Blog

  3. Would you mind helping me identify the cedar I have? I’m just starting to distill wood and needle, and would love to lovingly take a few branches from my cedar and distill. I’ve checked my field guide and online but just can’t seem to identify it. If you’re willing to help please email at, ill send photo. Thanks 😉

    • If it is a true cedar, it is easy to tell the difference with a Cedrus (Pinaceae family) vs. the Cupressaceae family. I could help you if you really would send a photo closeup of the top and underside of the leaf/scale – a short upclose of the branch would do. You can also take the branch to your local nursery and ask them for the Latin binomial – not the common name. Reread the article to correctly define the words that I just used.

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